Skip navigation! Story from Beauty. As I watched my hair fall to the gray tiles in frizzy, scattered piles, I felt a sudden wave of panic. I had requested shaved sides with only a tuft of curls at the top of my head. As a fat woman, I had never allowed myself to cut my hair this short. Even on this day, despite years of immersion in fat-positive and body-positive advocacy, I still worried about challenging the idea of beauty in relation to my fat body.
Would I feel less feminine with my short back and sides? Would the world around me grow even more cruel, more judgmental? Would my female identity be compromised? We can be viewed as individuals who are "making an effort" in categories outside of our figures. I had dabbled in shoulder-length cuts before and remembered feeling somewhat liberated by them — as if a metaphorical weight had been lifted off my shoulders. However, those cuts were still safe. They were comfortable, and while many people did not like my fatness, they did like my feminine, curly hair.
At least not initially. The second I felt the clippers hit my scalp, I began questioning what femininity actually means to me, and if it even matters. I reflected on the type of attention that makes me feel good and the type that makes me feel bad, and how I might react to changes in the attention I receive after walking out of the salon. Even though I do not believe that fat women and femmes must have long hair in order to be presentable, worthy of respect, or beautiful, I came face to face with the effects of this construct on my own presentation on the day I finally made the big chop.
I was emboldened by a friend cutting off her own locks a couple of seats over; emboldened by the desire to challenge any lingering fatphobic constructs I may have been applying to myself. Many fat women and femmes experience this pressure, particularly if they exist at the intersection of multiple marginalized identities. Long hair was a big one, particularly where 'good' and 'bad' Black hair were concerned.
Despite genuinely loving cutting her thick strands into a pixie crop noting that her very first pixie at 18 was "sleek and styled" and made her feel "like a '60s starlet" , Ragini says she was at a point in her life where she'd eschewed social acceptance in favor of being an eccentric.
Half the time I'm not even aware that's what I'm doing. It's such a reflexive, ingrained behavior from having been fat all my life. I assumed that if it ever went, so too would my femininity, or the strength I derive from traditionally 'feminine' things like makeup, dresses, or domestic badassery. I recognized that there were people out there willing to give my size a pass so long as I made an effort to look cute in other ways, and I worried about being the target of even more fatphobia than I already was.
Since cutting off my hair, the stares and whispers have increased. I simultaneously notice myself being looked at more and less, and having to combat the importance I place on others' opinions of me more deeply than I have in years.
This is something Ratnadevi Manokaran , plus-size influencer and cofounder of plus-size clothing brand The Curve Cult , knows all too well. She shaved her head at 23 — a moment she found extremely liberating. As she got older, however, she similarly found that cutting your hair short when you are a woman, and particularly when you are a fat woman, engenders this sudden absence of male attention; the kind of male attention women and femmes are generally taught to aspire to.
Ultimately, I cannot help but feel this kind of unpacking is a positive thing. If we never challenge the armor we use, some of us may struggle to grasp our value outside of it. Without trusting in our value, we may further struggle to set healthy boundaries, to distance ourselves from toxic relationships, to fight for what we know we deserve, to say no when we want to say no, or yes when we want to say yes.
Without understanding our value, we are often quicker to accept mistreatment from others and from ourselves. There's nothing to hide behind and nothing to hide. This story was originally published on Refinery29 UK. When it comes to high-tech hair tools, Dyson is behind some of the greats. In August , I shaved off all my hair.